Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wherever You Are, It's Not A Party Without Potatoes, The 9th Wonder of The World.

You say Po-tay-to, you may say Po-tah-to. Actually I prefer saying Aloo which is the South Asian word for potato. When I was growing up, potatoes were something that was always associated with Ireland, or Idaho, but potatoes are grown all over the world and they seem to be popular everywhere and for good reason. Potatoes are delicious, and healthy, a combo that's not found very often. They're inexpensive, and packed with potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid, and when they're prepared in a healthy fashion there's almost nothing better for you.

   Besides which, potatoes have rightfully earned the name comfort food. In fact that is their name. The Latin moniker for potato is Solanum tuberosum. Solanum translates to "soothing" So the Romans got that one right. Potatoes are also related to tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and eggplants but leaves the rest of the family in the dust. Who wants to curl up with a quilt, a good movie, and a big bowl of mashed eggplant?  When it comes to comport food nobody touches the good old potato.

   Potatoes are a New World food. They started off about 7,000 years ago, cultivated by the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains and worked their way around the world from there. Now, they're grown and loved nearly everywhere. In fact one of the biggest producers of potatoes on the planet is India and potato dishes can be found in all varieties on the subcontinent. When I first started cooking Indian food 26 years ago, a potato dish was the first thing I learned. Somehow the combination of a familiar vegetable in unfamiliar spices made the whole process a lot easier.

   In Indian cuisine it's never a festival, feast day, or special occasion, without a potato on the table. Right now Holi is about to be celebrated in India, and other countries of Southeast Asia. Holi marks the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. During Holi there's are gathering, parties and feasting. It's definitely a time to celebrate, and of course that celebration includes potatoes. In the Punjab, where this particular potato recipe originates, Winter is divided into two parts, Hemant for November through January, and Shishir for January through March. So Hemant ends with Bonfires on Hoilika Dahan, the Night Before Holi beigins. The bonfires are lit to celebrate the victory of good over evil, and people gather near them to sing and dance in celebration.

The next day, this...

...turns into this... people celebrate the arrival of the new season with all its colors. It's a festival of forgiveness and new starts... and good food. The potato recipe I'm offering up is a very simple Punjabi dish, easy to prepare for a party. It's one of the first Indian dishes I cooked and it's called Masla Aloo.

Masala Aloo

Here's What You Need:
3 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 Tbs rice flour
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs fresh chopped cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Halve the potatoes and boil them for about 15 minutes or until they are tender.

When they are done, run them under cold water to stop the cooking process and let them cool down.

When they've dried and cooled, slip the skins off...

...and cut the pieces into quarters.

Sprinkle the potato pieces with the rice flour. Coat them well.

In a skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of coconut or other vegetable oil.

When the oil is hot add in the cumin seeds.

When the cumin seeds start to crackle, add in all the other spices.

Keep the heat low and stir the spices around well so that they are mixed into the hot oil.
When everything is well mixed with the oil, add in the rice flour coated potato pieces.

Stir them around so that the potato pieces are covered in the spices. Cook them this way for about 7 minutes. Keep stirring so nothing burns. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the potatoes and serve them up!

Hot, spicy, and crispy, pure Indian comfort food at it's finest. This is a great party dish no matter what you're celebrating and a quick and easy introduction to Indian cooking, and while you're at it here's another great potato video to enjoy!
Thanks to the U.S.Potato Board for sponsoring this post.

Medium potatoes 4 to 5 Rice flour or corn meal 1 tbsp Vegetable oil 2 tbsps Asafoetida (optional, but really elevates the taste) pinch Cumin seeds 1 tsp Coriander powder 1tsp Cumin powder 1 tsp Red chilli powder 1/2 to 1 tsps Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp Salt 1 tsp Finely chopped coriander leave for garnish 1 tbsp
Medium potatoes 4 to 5 Rice flour or corn meal 1 tbsp Vegetable oil 2 tbsps Asafoetida (optional, but really elevates the taste) pinch Cumin seeds 1 tsp Coriander powder 1tsp Cumin powder 1 tsp Red chilli powder 1/2 to 1 tsps Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp Salt 1 tsp Finely chopped coriander leave for garnish 1 tbsp

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fast and Easy, Kerala Style Eggplant, Vegan and Gluten Free.

   It's been very busy around here which is why I've had a bit of time between posts. It's not that I haven't been cooking, I have been. It's more like what I've been cooking.  What's been coming out of the kitchen lately is a lot of vegan and gluten free  food. I've been working with my friends at CocoaPlanet who are opening their chocolate factory and Cafe here in Sonoma. I've been hired to help design the menu at the cafe which will be ALL Gluten Free! There are also going to be vegan and vegetarian offerings along with meat dishes. Besides their delicious chocolates, they'll be serving pizzas, quiches, salads, sandwiches, and of course delightful desserts. If you follow me on Instagram, you've likely seen some of the things they'll be featuring.
   We've also been prepping a second run of The Chaunk, our Indian Spice Kits, which have sold out in the Rancho Gordo Store in the San Francisco Ferry Building, and also at J.James here in Sonoma. We've been getting our Chaunk online store ready also, so we can make them available to everyone. There are a few other projects in the pipeline too, so this has been a pretty busy time for us. On top of that, I finished my chemo today. It's been a long year and a half, a lot of ice hats and spices under the bridge. So, back to Indian Food and writing! What better way to kick off a cold and luckily rainy January here in Sonoma than a hot and spicy, easy to prepare Kerala eggplant dish.


Kerala Style Coconut Eggplant


Here's What You Need:

1 eggplant
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 Tbs dried, unsweetened ,shredded coconut
1 dried ,red chili ( I used Chiles de arbol from Rancho Gordo)
2 serrano chilies chopped
4 thin sliced rounds of ginger
1 shallot peeled and chopped
1 onion peeld and finelu chopped
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 Tbs  vegetable oil, (I use coconut oil)
salt to taste
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs chopped fresh mint.

Here's What To Do:
Chop your eggplant into 1 inch pieces.

(Eggplant is a notorious oil sop. To cut down on the amount of oil in the dish, I place the cut up eggplant in the microwave for about 3 or 4 minutes, which softens it and partially cooks it, then I finish it in the pan with the spices. This reduces the amount of time the dish takes to prepare.)

Place the eggplant pieces in a covered microwave dish, and cook them for about 3 or 4 minutes. They will be tender when done. Set them aside.
Pour the coconut milk into a food processor or blender.

Add in the ginger...

...dried chiles...

...Serrano chilies...

...shallot and onion...

...and dried coconut.

Blend everything to a thick paste.

Finally add in the garam masala, coriander,and turmeric.

Blend it again, and set it aside.
Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.

When the oil is hot pour in the coconut spice paste.

 Cook it on medium high heat for about 4 minutes, until it starts to get fragrant and color a bit.
Drain the eggplants of whatever water they've given off while coking in the microwave and add them to the pan.

Add salt to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon.

Cook everything stirring over a high heat for about 4 minutes.

Then turn the heat down, put a lid on the pan and let things simmer for about 10 minutes.

Give it a stir every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking or burning.
When the eggplants are nice and soft and the spice mix cooked through, add in the lemon juice...

...cilantro and mint.

Stir everything together and cook for another minute or two. Check for seasoning, you can add a pinch of garam masala at this point if you wish, and serve it up.

   Hot, spicy, and delicious, this makes a great vegetarian/vegan offering for any weekday, or Meatless Monday meal. Pair it with a simple Basmati rice dish or any western entree and you are golden! Coming up next, speaking of Basmati Rice, I got the opportunity to taste some straight out of the Himalayas and have a great way to make plain rice something special. Follow along on Twitter@kathygori

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Simple, Fast, and Made For Clean Eating: Butternut Squash Risotto.

   Over the last couple of months I've posted quite a few pictures of my incredible butternut squash crop this season. I love this particular vegetable and I've used it in a lot of my Indian recipes over the years.  However, butternut squash is loved by all cuisines, and as I've said before, when the holidays come round and I'm doing entertaining for my Italian family, my mind turns to pastas and risottos, traditional Italian comfort foods.

   My friend Judy Witts Francini aka Divina Cucina is another local Bay Area girl, a San Francisco pastry chef who has been cooking, living, and teaching cooking in Italy for the last 30 years. If you're going to Italy, Judy's the person to get in touch with for classes, culinary tours, and  anything you might want in food and wine. Very often late at night California time and early morning back in Florence, Judy and I text each other and talk food, and Italy. She happens to live in a village outside of Florence and buys her olive oil from Mrs. Gori of  Villa Il Pozzo  one of the Gori ancestral homes.

   Judy always gives me flashbacks of family cooking since I've spent the last 26 years mainly cooking Indian food. When I want a taste of "home cooking" she's always there with a recipe. Judy has given me recipes for things that I haven't seen outside the dining room of my grandparent's old Victorian house on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. Today I'm sharing a risotto recipe that I got from her. It's a quick, easy, recipe that's perfect for weeknight dinners as it can be on the table in about 20 minutes. After all the frantic holiday action we've had around here that's definitely a really good thing. So, without further ado, Butternut Squash Risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto


 Here's What You Need:
1 Butternut squash
1 shallot, or 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup of peeled and cubed  Butternut squash
1 tsp toasted crumbled saffron
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups water
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
balsamic vinegar

Here's What To Do:
Cut the butternut squash into cubes and set it aside.

Thinly slice one shallot, or if you prefer, 1 garlic clove.

Peel and slice a 1 inch piece of ginger and chop it finely.

Set all of it aside.

Measure out 2 cups of arborio rice and a tsp of saffron.
Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a pot, swirl it around so that the bottom of the pot is coated in the oil.

When the oil is hot, toss in the ginger and shallot or garlic.

Stir everything around until the shallot or garlic is translucent, and starting to brown.

Add in the toasted crumbled saffron.

Add in the cubed butternut squash.

Stir it around so that it is coated with saffron, ginger, and shallot or garlic.
Add in the arborio rice and stir it around until it is hot to the touch.

Pour 2 cups of water into the mixture in the pot.

Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot, and turn down the heat.

Let everything cook for about 14 minutes. The water should be absorbed by then.
Stir the rice for the first time, then add in about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan...

...and another 1/2 cup of water and start stirring for real. The stirring will give the risotto a creamy texture without actually adding any cream.
Check for salt and add what you feel it needs.
Place it into individual bowls.
And get ready for the balsamic vinegar.

I always use Barrel Aged Balsamic from Sonoma Harvest.
Shave a bit of aged Parmesan over each serving.

Then drizzle a bit of aged balsamic over that.

Serve it up, and Florentine dinner is on the table.

   My ancestors couldn't have enjoyed anything better. Poking around in a bunch of family documents I read about a dinner given by one of the Goris and among the guests was The Sforza Duchess, and some Medicis. I don't know if this was on the table, but it should have been. Coming up next, a return to Indian food, I meet the champagne of Basmati Rice, and more clean eating for a clean New Year! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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